You’ll have to wait for affordable housing relief around Seattle

Apr 15, 2017, 10:13 AM | Updated: 10:14 am
NLIHC , Tacoma rent, affordable housing,...
(Mark Moz, Flickr)
(Mark Moz, Flickr)

If you’re among the households in the Seattle area barely holding on to the roof over your head, hang in there. Help is on the way — but not until 2019.

RELATED: Is Seattle standing in its own way solving the housing crisis?

King County Executive Dow Constantine recently stated in a letter to County Councilmember Joe McDermott that the need for affordable housing solutions in King County is “acute.” The solutions will come via a proposed task force, but that group will have more than a year and a half to come up with a plan.

Affordable housing task force

According to Constantine’s March letter, there is an effort to establish a Regional Affordable Housing Task Force “charged with developing a regional affordable housing strategy … The need is acute. Nearly 50,000 households earning minimum wage are paying over 50 percent of their income towards their housing needs.”

The effort to address the situation is titled Council Motion 2017-0171. If approved, it will make the task force official. The group will then find remedies to the rising costs of living throughout the region. In the end, people needing lower living costs will be able to afford to stay in the area.

• Motion is expected to be up for county council vote by the end of April.
• Task force will be formed in May.
• The task force will include: Constantine; four members of the King County Council; four representatives from the Sound Cities Association; the mayor of Seattle; and the director of the Department of Community and Human Services.
• The group will produce a work plan by Oct. 31.
• They will produce a final affordable housing strategy report by December 2018.
• The final report will require 50 hours of work, and will cost about $3,256.50 to produce. No printing costs.

Un-affordable housing

The task force was hinted at during an April 3 press conference with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Seattle entrepreneur Nick Hanauer, and King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci. The event was meant to discuss homelessness programs, but officials could not avoid the affordable housing issue as part of the problem.

“It’s not just that many people are poor,” Hanauer said. “It’s that many of us in fast-growing cities like Seattle earn a great deal, and can afford any kind of housing that we wish – and it is that dynamic that pushes the price of housing up for everyone, particularly the poor.”

Also part of the problem is the limited housing stock, so competition is high. Left in the dust are those unable to keep up.

As Curbed points out, median Seattle rent is about $2,100 and is expected to rise to $2,204 by February 2018. The real estate market is also facing challenges, according to Curbed, with a 10.5 percent drop in inventory over the past year — 61 percent of Seattle properties are going for above the asking price (it was 57 percent a year ago). In Redmond, it’s 85 percent. In Shoreline, 77 percent.

King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci is one of those who want to find solutions with the proposed task force.

“We need to address the skyrocketing cost of housing if we are to make a dent in homelessness on the Eastside and throughout the region … the least expensive home for sale in Bellevue today cost more than $500,000,” Balducci said at the same April 3 meeting with Hanauer. “If any of you have not been there recently, we have some very small, very old, very crummy houses in Bellevue and they are going for over half a million dollars. So people cannot afford to buy in, in my part of the world. And therefore they drive further and further north to be able to live and get to work.”

Balducci was likely talking about homes such as this 60-year-old rambler going for more than $500,000 in Bellevue. It’s a sign of how high the hill is to climb just to establish a home in the region.

“Renters in King County and throughout the Eastside are also in a precarious position,” she said. “At the end of 2016, the median rental price was $2,200 – that’s more than $600 above the national median … Right now, nearly 300,000 households in King County spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing and many have trouble finding any type of housing they can afford.”

Balducci further noted that for every $100 rise in monthly rent, there is generally a 15 percent rise in homelessness.

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You’ll have to wait for affordable housing relief around Seattle